Students enjoy taste of Cinco
Starside classes celebrate Mexican national holiday
It was generally agreed Thursday by Amanda Wilkins' fourth-grade class that Cinco de Mayo was fun, not to mention tasty.
Wilkins and several other Starside Elementary School teachers planned classroom celebrations to go along with the holiday, observed by Mexicans and Mexican-Americans to commemorate the 1862 defeat of French troops at the Battle of Puebla. Spanish lessons, salsa taste-offs and Mexican dancing were enjoyed by all but it proved a special chance for Hispanic students to share some of their heritage with peers.
Fourth-grader Griselda Calderon, whose whose parents immigrated from Mexico, got emphatic nods from classmates when she speculated that they enjoyed getting a taste of Hispanic culture and holiday traditions.
"They're, like, surprised at how we speak, and they think it's really fantastic what Spanish people do," Griselda said. "They're like 'Ooh, that's cool.'"
Students whose first language -- or those whose parents' first language -- is Spanish make up around 20 percent of Starside's total population, said district English as a Second Language coordinator Debbie Taylor.
Cinco de Mayo activities and a school assembly on Wednesday, when students who spoke Spanish were asked to raise their hands for recognition, were highlights for those students, Taylor said.
"Just being able to celebrate their heritage is a lot of fun for the kids," she said. "It was just a source of pride for the kids to be able to share ...to give them the chance to be in the forefront, to be the ones with the knowledge that was desired."
Favio Valenzuela, one of Wilkins' fourth-graders, brought a bowl full of his mother's guacamole to share after his class's salsa tasting on Thursday. In keeping with tradition and function, an entire avocado pit was left in the dip.
"It has a big seed in it," Favio explained to classmates. "That just makes it last longer."
Favio and other Hispanic students all said they always planned big get-togethers for Cinco de Mayo weekend.
"We have a party, and we invite our whole family and eat together," Griselda said. "We play games. We sometimes have a 'Who makes the best salsa?' (contest), just like we're doing right now."
Griselda said her family made tamales and usually added a jalepeÃ±o-eating contest, where participants try to eat the most peppers from a bucket in the middle of the table.
Griselda said she tried it once but found jalepeÃ±o eating was best left to people like her dad, who often won.
"One time I did," she said. "And my mouth got really hot."
Lisa Calderon said her family also celebrated Cinco de Mayo by eating tamales, along with posole, a traditional Mexican stew made with pork and hominy.
"My grandma always makes them on holidays," Lisa said.
In Wilkins' class, students blind tasted four types of salsa -- three store-bought and one homemade by student Sarah Churchwell's dad, Don.
Taylor Phongsavath voted for salsa No. 2. "It was radical," he wrote on his comment card.
Jake Grimes picked No. 1, writing that it was "really good and hot."
Although he described salsa No. 4 as "the bomb," Brandon Liebig eventually settled on salsa No. 2, noting "It was the best."
Sarah's homemade salsa, however, which turned out to be No. 1, was the hands-down winner, taking more than half of the class's total votes.
Wilkins explained that fresh cilantro, tomatoes and onions helped give the salsa its flavor.
"It's a popular food that all of us have come to enjoy, but it originated in Mexico," the teacher said. "That's why we're trying it today."
Fourth-grade teacher Amy Arthur also had a salsa taste-off in her room, along with some crafts and a performance by three students who donned colorful, flowing skirts and danced "El Sinaloense."
In second-grade teacher Sharyl Serafin's class fiesta, colorful costumes and authentic music and dancing were the biggest hits with students, she said.
One boy dressed as a mariachi player, and a few girls donned colorful dancing skirts. One student brought tostadas, and several brought Mexican music.
"I think the music and the dance were probably the most exciting things," Serafin said. "Hearing the music, for this age level, they really get excited about it."